The state of Florida has recently made must awaited changes to some of its laws regarding stalking, which have come into effect just a few months ago. Some of these changes were also related to the laws regarding enjoinment with respect to stalking. In fact, a specific statute for stalking enjoinment has been created to ensure that the growing number of cases related to stalking can be controlled and the stalkers can get the punishment they deserve in the form of rigorous imprisonment.
Stalking defined by Florida statute:
It is a well documented fact that stalking already featured as a crime which can trigger an enjoinment. The criminal law in the state of Florida defines stalking as an act where any individual intentionally, maliciously as well as incessantly follows, harasses and/or cyber-stalks another person. The law also has a clear definition of harassment which states that any act committed against another person over a period of time that causes substantial emotional distress would amount to harassment.
Examples of stalking conduct:
Listed below are a few examples, which will provide a better idea of exactly what type of behaviors or acts can qualify an individual for an enjoinment:
- When an individual has previously been involved in matters related to threats, harassment, stalking, cyber-staking and/or physically abusing the petitioner
- When an offender has threatened to injure or harm the petitioner or any of his or her close ones
- When an offender has supposedly harmed or killed a pet of the petitioner
- When an offender has used any kind of weapon against the petitioner
- When an offender has intentionally and/or maliciously destroyed property of the petitioner
As far as the changes in stalking law are concerned, the most dramatic changes have been made in definitional language of the term ‘credible threat.’ Previously, the definition did not mention any form of verbal or non verbal threats as part of credible threat, especially those related to electronic forms of communication. The older definition just broadly covered any threat and did not categorize it. It not incorporates verbal as well as non verbal threats. The change has received mix response from legal expert of the country, as many believe that it was totally unnecessary to delineate the broader definition. Many are also calling it a good publicity stunt for the bill sponsor.
Opponents of the new stalking law feel that the recent changes have almost eliminated the intent requirement, a factor which can make the crime a strict liability offense. Almost all the so called ‘criminal statutes’ require some criminal intent before they can be convicted for a crime. Many legal expert are saying that the amended statute could very easily lead to prosecution. That is why it is important to contact a Walton County criminal defense lawyer if charged with stalking.
However, the proponents of the law say that the statute still states that the fear should be reasonable for the offense to be treated as a strict liability offense. The effect of these changes will be seen in the near future.
Scott Charles is a law blogger from Miami who enjoys writing on all topics related to crime and punishment in the State of Florida